Mt. Langley Backpack, Day 1 – Cottonwood Lakes Trail to Cottonwood Lake #3, August 28 2015

posted in: Photos, Trip Report | 2

Soon after my first Mt. Whitney summit in 2011, I started looking at Mt. Langley. Despite planning the trip multiple times over the years, a solid attempt at Langley never panned out (closest was a 2013 attempt that ended after a Cirque Peak summit). Weather, conflicting schedules and my obsession with Mt. Whitney generally threw a wrench into my plans. Having summitted both Whitney and White Mountain Peak earlier this year, I made it a priority to get in a Mt. Langley attempt or two before the 2015 season ended. With the fires burning in Sequoia National Park, we weren’t sure if this trip was going to happen. We had several backup hikes in place, but taking a last minute look at the smoke forecast and talking to the staff at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center, we decided to go for it.

After picking up our permits in Lone Pine, we hit the trail around 1 pm. Two years ago I had hiked to Cottonwood Lakes as a Mt. Whitney acclimation hike, so I didn’t spend much time breaking down our hike or studying the route. As mentioned above, we needed a few backup plans due to the ever-changing smoke conditions; these plans took up most of my free time during the week leading up to this hike. Arriving at what I thought were Cottonwood Lakes 1 & 2, I was saddened, thinking that the lakes I visited in 2013 were completely dry. The moment I remember most from my 2013 hike was coming to the top of some switchbacks, the whole time thinking we should’ve picked a different hike (prior to this the trail was very dry, dusty and not too interesting), then being blown away by what we saw; the lakes looked amazing! I had forgotten that we had hiked the area as a ‘lollipop’ loop, and had not reached this “plateau” via the same route. The area I was looking at and thinking I should be looking at Lakes 1 & 2 appears as just a marsh on most maps.

As we neared our planned campsite, we noticed that the area was further from water than we thought it would be.  After some discussion, we setup camp further to the south near what we thought was Cottonwood Lake #4. After discussing the area with others post trip, I believe this was actually Lake #3.

Looking at my GPS, I realized that we made better time than expected. By 5 PM we had setup camp and were making dinner. After eating, we spent some time at the lake, filtering water, soaking our feet and taking pictures. Once JP headed to bed, I setup my tripod and camera. In preparing for this trip, I thought I might stay up late to get some photos of the supermoon, not thinking about how quickly long exposure shots drain my battery or about my poor luck taking nightime shots with my Sony NEX. After 30 mins, I had drained my battery down to 45% (it wasn’t full when I started the hike, oops). I was very happy to have the Greenlight Planet King Pro with me on this trip, which I used to charge my battery overnight. I was in bed by 8 PM and had one of the best night of sleep I’ve ever had on the trial. I believe this was due to the new backpacking quilt I was using (I hate mummy bags), as well as not being crammed into a bivy like I was on the HST.

As time allows, I will add more info about Day 1. In the meantime, you can learn more about this trail and some of the planning that went into this trip here:  Cottonwood Lakes Trail

Geek Stats

Distance: 6.18 miles || Duration: 3h 18m || Elevation Gain/Loss: +1,391, -317 || Max Elevation: 11,132′ || Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

  • Notes:
    • Relatively easy hike, even with a full pack. Only difficult thing is elevation if you’re not properly acclimated.
    • #52HikeChallenge, Hike 29 of 52

The  gallery below (~26 photos) loads slowly. Thank you for your patience.


  • Jacks ‘R’ Better High Sierra Sniveller
    • When planning my HST hike, I was looking at quilts, but did not have the funds to buy one. I found a great price on a used Sierra Design Backcountry Bed, which worked well, but is on the heavy side for its temperature rating (45 oz for 37 degrees). Since returning from my hike in June, I’ve been on a lookout for a quilt.
    • I was beyond excited when I procured this quilt, weight in at about 32 oz and good to 0 degrees.
    • My first night with the quilt went great. I used a piece of rope to keep it and my sleeping pad together (has now been replaced with shock cord), but otherwise I had no issues with it.
    • The temperature only dipped into the 30s, but I kept comfortable by leaving the footbox open and slipping my feet out when they got warm.
  • Greenlight Planet King Pro
    • I’ve been testing this light and battery pack on and off for the last few months, around the house and on car camping trips. This was my first experience backpacking with it.
    • Too heavy for lightweight backpacking, I consider it a luxury item, but enjoyed having it to top off my phone and camera and for some light around camp.
  • WoolX Merino Wool
  • Darn Tough ATC Sock Micro Crew Cushion
    • They worked well with my Oboz Bearthooths.
    • Will also wear them on day 2, unwashed.
  • Six Moon Design Fusion 65
    • I managed to cram all of my gear into it, but it did not carry as well as I had hoped. I made some adjustments to the pack along the way, but I may just be carrying too much weight for this pack to perform well.
    • I had high hopes for this pack, but the more I use it, I continue to notice some short comings. More on this later.
  • Geigerrig
  • Vivobarefoot Ultra
    • I have really enjoyed using these as campshoes. Unfortunately I noticed that the instep of the right shoe has started to split. With only a few hours of use and less than 5 miles of walking, this should not be happening. I plan to contact the company soon.


2 Responses

  1. Doug Hesse

    I’d like to have read more about the hike itself. I understand the point of the blog is to mention gear, but I’d really have appreciated more sense of the place. (I live in Colorado.)

    • TheHikingGeek

      Thanks for the comment! I am planning to add more details later. I am scrambling right now to come up with a backup plan for my next trip (9/11-9/13). The new forest fire in Yosemite may interfere with our plans.

      Since I completed this trip over a week ago, I figure I should get the photos posted. Day 1 of this trip was pretty uneventful overall, but Day 2 (summit day) was more exciting. I take notes about the gear while I am on the trail, so it’s just a matter of typing them up. I haven’t had a chance to type out my thoughts about the hike, but I will add some of the info I’ve posted here, as well I why we chose our route: